Henrico’s defense secures playoff win
Fight leads to ejection of QB, but Warriors hold lead
It was the Henrico defense that limited Varina to a meager 75 yards of offense. It was the defense that forced four turnovers, and it was the defense that made sure Varina wasn’t coming back after Henrico lost its quarterback in the second quarter.
Third-seeded Henrico held on for a 28-13 victory over sixth-seeded Varina on Friday night and will travel to L.C. Bird next week in the second round of the Class 5, Region B playoffs.
Quarterback Jalon Jones was ejected for fighting late in the second quarter. Jones had made several big plays until that moment, throwing for 170 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 70 yards.
But with 36 seconds remaining in the second quarter, he threw an interception to Varina’s Lavar Mallory. As Mallory returned the interception toward the Henrico end zone, Jones was blocked by Varina’s Linard Scott, and the two tussled.
Several punches were thrown, then Jones removed Scott’s helmet and threw it into the nearby woods. Both players were ejected.
A fighting ejection means a two-game suspension for Jones.
When Jones was on the field, Henrico’s offense was dynamic. He connected with Ja’Had Carter for two touchdown passes. He also tucked the ball and ran for 70 yards on one play.
But without Jones on the field, offensive yardage was sparse. Henrico managed 61 yards of offense in the second half.
With the offense not generating much production, the defense got the job done. Varina’s Isiah Page returned the opening
kickoff of the second half 75 yards for a touchdown, cutting Henrico’s lead to 21-13. Then Varina managed just one first down the rest of the game.
“We played as a team,” linebacker Joey Jefferson said. “Eleven hats to the football.”
Jefferson had the defense’s biggest highlight in the second quarter when he intercepted a pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. Rolling to his left in coverage, he leaped up to grab the ball with one hand.
“He’s been waiting for that moment for a long time,” linebacker Khalil Finger said.
A two-year starter, Jefferson isn’t one of the big names on the Henrico roster. But he’s a guy who always shows up in key moments, Finger said. At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Jefferson is thick.
“He hits everything,” Carter said.
It was a big first half for Carter, a senior receiver bound for Virginia Tech, who finished with six catches for 92 yards for two touchdowns and an interception on defense. He missed several games because of discipline, returning last week.
“I got my swagger back,” Carter said.
On his first touchdown, he caught a screen pass, broke a tackle and put his speed on display, tearing 19 yards to the end zone. On his second, he ran a post route, went low to catch the pass, scooped it into his chest and rolled onto the grass.
When Jones completed passes to Carter, it was almost as if the field wasn’t mud, as if it hadn’t been soaked with a day’s worth of rain.
Then backup Hayden Vozar entered, and the offense plodded more and jived less. But it got one good drive in the fourth quarter, good enough for Marqe Harvey to rush 20 yards for a touchdown and stretch the lead to 15 points.
“I told him, it’s no different when (Jones) was in the game,” Finger said. “Go finish this game and we have your back. We don’t have starting positions. We’re all one.”
ABOVE: Henrico’s Khalil Finger jumps on a loose ball in the Warriors’ 28-13 victory over Varina. LEFT: Henrico’s Jalon Jones gets into a fight with Varina’s Lorenz Terry. Both players were ejected, and without Jones, the Warriors’ offense slowed in the second half.
Class 5, Region B first round HENRICO 28, VARINA 13